Sorry folks, it's been a busy week. I'm catching up on homework, some capsules, and a mini-essay on my observations thus far in my project. Hopefully I'll have everything done soon! Plus, it's my birthday! Yay!
Without further ado:
While I appreciate the film and the filmmaker for addressing the cinematically taboo subject of abortion directly, I can’t help but be disappointed with the heavy-handed pessimism and victimization felt throughout the entirety of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. To put it bluntly, every man is a predator and every woman is prey. It’s exhaustingly manipulative in both aesthetics and themes, especially the use of the "box" framing device which is constantly used on the female characters to further imply their persecution.
Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), the film’s central character, is supposed to be seen as some sort of a feminist hero because she “fights” the oppressive forces that bind her to the situation she’s in - namely, helping out her best friend, Gabriela “Gabita“ (Laura Vasiliu), secure an illegal abortion in pre-revolutionist Romania. But that’s just surface level.
Instead, the film depicts Otilia as well as all of the other women (especially Gabita) as helpless victims who somehow know they’re being victimized yet never do anything about it (except pray on each other for some reason). The most blatant offender is Gabita, who manipulates Otilia several times without any consequence befalling her - she seems to like all of the ill-treatment she’s receiving because it ups her “woe as me” ante and even that’s giving her more foresight than I think she deserves.
The only way I can understand Otilia as a feminist hero is through the idea that she’s the only woman in the film who is seen as active - she’s basically the lone female character seen outdoors aside from the abortionist’s senile mother who, when on screen, is being ushered back inside her home (notice Otilia‘s blank and uncaring stare while she watches from afar). Yet even when Otilia is outside she’s always doing errands for other people and I never, for one instance, feel as if Otilia is performing any of these exhaustive labors for herself or the good of her community.
She’s more than happy to serve up anything from perfunctory sex to hotel reservations as long as she never thinks to herself - "why am I doing this?" Her character is entirely stripped of independence, ambition, and thought, which I suppose could be the point of the film, but the mere fact that we are forced to understand her perspective only when considering that she’s running on survival instincts that aren’t hers speaks volumes about the failure of this film.
The setting of this film is the Romania of 1987. Two years later, a (partially) student-led revolution ended communism in the country. What’s clear to me after 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is Otilia had absolutely nothing to do with it - which begs the question - why am I watching her?